Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's the Bucket Woman!

For whatever reason, Britcoms don't usually work for me. But I've happily made an exception in recent weeks as I make my way through five funny seasons of the 1990-95 BBC series Keeping Up Appearances. As fans worldwide know, the show, written by Roy Clarke, is about middle-aged, middle-class Britisher Hyacinth Bucket, who may be one of the worst social climbers of all time. Having come from modest circumstances, Hyacinth isn't content to relax and enjoy her pleasant suburban home with husband Richard. Instead, she devotes herself to hilarious schemes designed to improve her social standing, and help her hobnob with the upper classes. Although Richard manfully endures her trying ways, she's often undermined by the appearance of her socially questionable family members, who fall decidedly short of the high-falutin' image she wants so badly to present.

The series is a tour de force for leading lady Patricia Routledge, who haughtily informs one and all that, despite the spelling, her last name is correctly pronounced "Bouquet." Her reign of terror extends to neighbors Liz and Emmet, the young vicar and his wife, and the hapless mailmen and other workers who try their best to do their jobs while staying out of her sight.

While Rutledge is brilliant, it's not a one-woman show; she's backed by a solid-gold supporting cast. I especially like Judy Cornwell as Hyacinth's sloppy, down-to-earth sister Daisy, who passes her days reading paperback romances, and trying to stir a spark of life in her "bone-idle" husband Onslow. Clive Swift, as the endlessly tolerant Richard, is the epitome of a fine supporting actor, and I'm always impressed by how many variations Josephine Tewson (as Liz) can play on the theme of the jittery neighbor who finds Hyacinth's invitations to coffee so nerve-wracking.

If you haven't tried the show, by all means see if it doesn't tickle you. It does me, and I'm awfully sorry that I'm running out of new episodes to see. You can visit the BBC's official page for the series here.

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